The Government has been urged to ensure that refugees arriving here from war-torn countries be integrated into local communities as soon as possible to aid their recovery.
This comes against a backdrop of reports that fewer than a third of the 4,000 refugees Ireland has promised to accept by the end of this year have so far being admitted, with bishops claiming that Irish people and civic society are ready and willing to help if they are allowed to do so.
While the pace at which Ireland is taking in refugees must seem “painfully slow” to people waiting in camps, Elphin’s Bishop Kevin Doran welcomed how some refugees are finally arriving and said that his diocese will be “very anxious” to offer any support it can when refugees arrive in communities there.
Describing it as a “wise decision” to provide refugees with short transitional periods in reception centres such as that at Ballaghaderreen, Dr Doran told this newspaper, “this should not drag on beyond a couple of months, however, because refugee families need to be able to establish a normal family life in their own homes and to be able to seek employment and have their children educated in the local schools”.
Dromore’s Bishop John McAreavey told The Irish Catholic he has heard from groups in civic society that official Government agencies are not involving them sufficiently in plans for bringing refugees to Ireland, despite groups like the St Vincent de Paul Society and other Church agencies having much to offer.
“I think if they were drawn into the whole issue of the reception of migrants, we’ll have an important contribution to make,” he said, adding, “I think a lot of people want the opportunity to help and to reach out and be generous.”
A huge amount needs to be done to help victims of war who have spent time in refugee camps, Dr McAreavey said, emphasising that across all communities and religious divides in Ireland “the biggest resource is the willingness of people to help those who have come through terrible suffering”.
Meanwhile, Ireland needs to take the lead in standing up for refugees in Europe, a leading priest advocate of migrants’ rights has said.
Warning against “demonising immigrants because they’re weak and they have no votes and they cannot respond”, Fr Bobby Gilmore, president of Migrants Rights Centre Ireland, told The Irish Catholic that there is a danger of treating immigrants as “scapegoats” and said Ireland’s history of migration should drive us to take an assertive and positive role in Europe on this issue.
“Given the present situation, where you have conflict in quite a number of places throughout the world, we simply have a responsibility as a nation and Europe has a responsibility more so than anybody else to make a stand on this particular issue,” he said, calling on Ireland to push the European institutions to take a humanitarian stand on the issue.
“We were where these people are now,” he said, criticising institutions for “flapping around and not deciding on anything, with the result that huge numbers of people suffer”.